Ship Crew Well-Being During COVID-19

Ship Crew Well-Being During COVID-19

Be Informed. Make Healthy Choices. Connect with Others.

Ship Crew Well-Being During COVID-19 - page banner

Pandemics Can Be Stressful

Coping with stress in healthy ways will make you, the people you care about, and your fellow crew members stronger. You may have experienced or might experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety about this disease can overwhelm your coping skills.

Be Informed

Learn more about coping with stress for crew members

Infographic: COVID-19 Stress on Board a Ship

Infographic: Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress on Board a Ship

As a ship crew member, you are at increased risk for exposure to COVID-19. Like many other viruses, the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) appears to spread easily between people in close quarters aboard ships and boats. You can take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Learn more about healthy ways to cope with stress and staying connected during COVID-19.

As a ship crew member, how can I protect myself and others?

Commercial shipping, including cruise ships and other passenger vessels, involves the movement of large numbers of people in closed and semi-closed settings. Like other close-contact environments, ships may increase transmission of respiratory viruses from person to person through exposure to respiratory droplets or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Take these steps to reduce risk to yourself and others:

  • Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when you are eligible and a vaccine is available to you.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet (2 meters or two arm lengths) away from others when working or moving through the ship.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when outside your cabin and in public settings. Wearing masks is important to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Proper hand hygiene is an important measure to protect yourself and prevent spread of disease.
    • Key times to clean hands in general include:
      • Before, during, and after preparing food
      • Before and after eating food
      • After using the toilet
      • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
      • Before and after touching your mask
      • Before and after caring for someone sick
    • Additional times to clean hands on the job include:
      • Before and after work shifts
      • Before and after work breaks
      • Before and after handling frequently touched items, such as food service carts
      • After handling food waste and non-disposable food service items
      • After touching dirty surfaces like floors, walls, and soiled carriers and equipment
      • After handling another person’s used linens
  • Participate in daily temperature checks onboard, if required, and watch your health for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Testing for COVID-19 is an important way to protect yourself and your fellow crew. See COVID-19 Testing: Information for Crew on Ships pdf icon[PDF – 1 page] and COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know pdf icon[PDF – 1 page]
  • If you feel sick, stay in your cabin and tell your ship’s medical staff, your supervisor, or your captain, so that the proper precautions can be taken for you and other crew members on board.
  • Follow isolation and quarantine protocols when advised to do so by medical staff. Learn about your vessel’s protocols in case you or someone else on board become ill.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily (tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks). Follow the directions on the cleaning product’s label.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), when required, to perform certain job tasks. Contact your supervisor, captain, or your ship’s medical staff for more information on PPE.
  • Use gloves when:
    • Handling dining items such as cups, utensils, and serving trays used by another person
    • Handling linens used by another person
    • Cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces
    • Handling garbage
  • Wash your hands after removing gloves.
  • Take care of your emotional and mental health and make proper sleep a priority.

Isolation and Quarantine

Isolation keeps someone who is infected with a contagious disease away from others.

Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to a contagious disease away from others.

How can I take care of my mental health?

This COVID-19 pandemic may be stressful for crew. Fear and anxiety about this disease and what could happen can be overwhelming. Public health actions, such as keeping distance from others, can make crew feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety, even though these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about stress on board a ship during COVID-19 pdf icon[PDF – 1 page].

You can do several things to look after your physical and mental health, which will help you to be healthier and more resilient during this difficult time.

Visit CDC’s Stress and Coping webpage to learn more about taking care of your mental health. This webpage has many tools, including phone numbers and online chat links for mental health resources.

Additional Resources
  • How Right Nowexternal icon: Provides inspiration and resources to help you navigate how you are feeling.
  • CDC Coping with Stress: Provides information on healthy ways to manage stress during the pandemic.
  • CDC Grief and Loss: Provides information for those who have lost a loved one or are helping a child cope with grief.
  • CDC Reducing Stigma: Provides information for preventing and addressing social stigma associated with COVID-19.
  • CDC Alcohol and Substance Abuse: Provides suggestions and resources for those who are or know someone who is using or increasing their use of alcohol or other substances.

What are signs of stress?

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. These may be physical and emotional reactions to stress:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other substances

Learn more about healthy ways to cope with stress.

What should I do if I need additional mental health support?

Extended quarantine and service at sea for long periods of time can be extremely difficult. Contact your ship’s medical staff or captain, access your company’s available resources, or call the ship’s emergency number if you or someone you know needs help.

Know the signs for stress. You or someone you know may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming.

Contact your ship’s medical staff or captain, access your company’s available resources, or call the ship’s emergency number if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Learn about Tips for Talking with Your Healthcare Providerexternal icon.

Who should I contact if I’m having thoughts about harming myself?

Contact your ship’s medical staff or captain, access your company’s available resources, or call the ship’s emergency number right away if you or someone you know needs help.

Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are known to raise the risk for suicide. People may be more likely to experience these feelings during a crisis like a pandemic.

However, there are ways to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For example, support from family, faith-based and secular communities and having access to in-person or virtual counseling or therapy can help with suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resources for Suicide and Crisis Prevention:

International Resources:

If I have a medical emergency, can I disembark from my ship?

Yes. Emergency medical evacuations should be requested through your ship’s medical staff or captain.

Make Healthy Choices

Learn More About

Infographic: Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress on Board a Ship - Thumbnail

Infographic: Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress on Board a Ship

Everyone reacts differently to stress. Taking care of your physical and emotional health are important healthy ways to cope with stress.

Here are some things you can do to cope with stressful situations:

  • Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when you are eligible and a vaccine is available to you.
  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact the ship’s medical provider and take steps to protect others on board.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person through your ship’s medical staff or through telehealth services).
  • Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself, your fellow crew, and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community. While social and physical distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

I am a supervisor or designated ship medical personnel onboard. What can I do to support the mental health of crew members?

Medical staff and supervisors have an important role in supporting the mental health of crew. Here are a few activities you can do to support crew:

Connect with Others

During times of increased social and physical distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected and less lonely or isolated.

How do I continue to connect with others while aboard a vessel?

  • Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • While social and physical distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media or by phone.

How can I build resilience and manage job stress?

The COVID-19 pandemic has probably changed the way you work. Fear and anxiety about this disease and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnoutexternal icon. How you cope with these emotions and stress can affect your well-being, the well-being of the people you care about, your fellow crew, and your community. It is critical that you recognize what stress looks like, take steps to build your resilience and manage job stress, and know where to go if you need help.

Communicate with your coworkers, supervisors, and employees about job stress while maintaining social and physical distancing. Identify things that cause stress and work together to identify solutions. Talk openly about how the pandemic is affecting your work and personal well-being.

Know where to go if you need help or more information.

If you or someone you know are having thoughts about harming yourself:

Communication Resources for Crew Infographics
Infographic: COVID-19: Stress on Board a Ship - Thumbnail
COVID-19: Stress on Board a Ship (PDF)

Infographic: Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress on Board a Ship - Thumbnail
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress on Board a Ship (PDF)

Infographic: Report COVID-19 Symptoms - Thumbnail
Report COVID-19 Symptoms (PDF)

Infographic: Cruise Ship Status Guide - Thumbnail
Cruise Ship Status Guide (PDF)

Infographic: Crew Disembarkation Requirements - Thumbnail
Crew Disembarkation Requirements (PDF)

COVID-19 Testing: Information for Crew on Ships
COVID-19 Testing: Information for Crew on Ships (PDF)

COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know (PDF)
COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know (PDF)

Framework for Conditional Sailing Order: Phased Approach Infographic
Framework for Conditional Sailing Order: Phased Approach (PDF)

Cruise Ship Operators and Leadership

For information about ways to protect the health of crew members, see CDC’s Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 and Technical Instructions for Mitigation of COVID-19 Among Cruise Ship Crew.